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Starting Up Silicon Valley: How ROLM Became a Cultural Icon and Fortune 500 Company Hardcover – April 8, 2014
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Kirkus Reviews -- an Indie Best Nonfiction Book of 2014!
A Kirkus Best Book of 2014!
Business history that will satisfy anyone captivated by the Silicon Valley.
Maxfield has written an engaging story about ROLM, a Silicon Valley startup that made its mark in the 1970s and '80s. According to this insider account based on primary sources and interviews, ROLM was a model of Silicon Valley entrepreneurship that future startups sought to emulate long before consumer technology and social media companies captured the high-tech spotlight. ROLM's innovative use of emerging digital technologies challenged AT&T's monopoly position in the telephony business by helping companies save millions of dollars and improving office workers' productivity. Maxfield fleshes out the story with engineering details, financial data, business strategies and management lessons that will appeal to MBAs eager to create their own success.
ROLM's founders enjoyed extraordinary success in two distinct businesses--selling digital phone systems to businesses and making military grade computer systems for the Department of Defense. In its heyday, ROLM was a great place to work, with corporate perks such as 12-week sabbaticals for all employees--at full pay--after every sixth year of employment. With tennis courts, a gym, two pools, a gourmet cafeteria and landscaped grounds, its campus headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., set a high bar for other companies competing for engineering talent during the late 1970s through mid-1980s. It's easy to identify with the author's sadness at how this story ends. ROLM was sold to IBM in 1984, and IBM sold ROLM to Siemens in 1988.
The author draws from materials collected by the Silicon Valley Historical Association, newspaper and magazine articles, and interviews with the founders and former employees of ROLM to write a corporate history unusual in its candor. Readers don't need to know the difference between a PBX and a CBX--although they'll know after reading this book--to appreciate the intense emotions and exuberant personalities Maxfield portrays. A favorite among employees was ROLM executive Leo Chamberlain, known for ''Leo-isms'' such as being '''up to our ass in alligators,' a phrase he used whenever the going got tough.'' Few authors have Maxfield's knack for describing both the forest and the trees, which makes her history of ROLM a worthy model for other histories of Silicon Valley companies.
Corporate history with enough drama for a movie.
-- - STARRED KIRKUS BOOK REVIEW
From the Back Cover
"ROLM, in its prime, was called a Great Place to Work and epitomized how successful an agile, well-managed start-up could be in a world dominated by giants. From the mid-1970s until IBM bought it, ROLM was a leading cultural icon of Silicon Valley, a company that was admired and imitated." James Mitchell, San Jose Mercury News
"There are two great ways to learn about what goes on inside a start-up--work for one or read Starting Up Silicon Valley." Bill Davidow, technology columnist for The Atlantic, venture capitalist, and former Senior VP of Marketing and Sales at Intel.
"ROLM Corporation play a large and important part in the history of Silicon Valley. This book is a must-read in understanding the technology and start-up phenomenon. ROLM was one of the important players that made it all possible and is extremely well chronicled by Katherine Maxfield." Arthur Rock, early investor in Intel, Apple, and other tech companies.
"I really enjoyed Starting Up Silicon Valley. It is a wonderful story of entrepreneurship and innovation, providing an amazing window into the personalities, institutions, and networks that built Silicon Valley. Maxfield makes the ROLM story very educational and highly entertaining at the same time." Michael Spence, former dean of the Stanford School of Business and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics
"Using humorous and revealing anecdotes, Katherine Maxfield has written a fascinating and very readable history of ROLM, one of Silicon Valley's great success stories." Sandra Kurtzig, CEO and founder of Kenandy and former CEO and founder of Ask Computer Systems
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Top customer reviews
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I used to work at ROLM and loved more clearly learning the history of the company and how they set the bar for cultural norms in Silicon Valley. They had a much greater impact than I realized in creating the Silicon Valley culture. They were ahead of the curve in creating an enjoyable working environment.
The ROLM story demonstrates that success is dependent on many factors, including good leadership, good technical skills, an attitude of whatever it takes and some lucky breaks. ROLM was lucky a few times, but many more times they were smart. The book demonstrates success is never guaranteed or permanent. You have to adapt to changing conditions to continue to be successful and sometimes you have to know when to take the money and run.
So much to take away--mostly the joy of doing something so well with folks who have agreement on quality. Also Big Corporate isn't much smarter than Big Government.
Most recent customer reviews
My Husband was their 5th employee.
Brought back lots of memories.
Interesting details of the IBM phase.